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Okra: Beyond the Goo

"In the olden days, okra is used to treat a variety of conditions like sore throat, diarrhea, abdominal pain, pneumonia, dysentery and wound healing."
By: Adrielle AustriaOkra: Beyond the Goo

Ask a kid what their favorite veggies are (if they eat vegetables at all), the probability of them including okra in their list is low. Some would only know of this versatile plant in art classes as a model for still life painting because it is not exactly famous for its taste. Okra, also known as lady’s finger or gumbo is believed to have originated in Africa. It comes from the mallow family and is botanically related to cotton, cocoa and a local flower, gumamela.

In the olden days, okra is used to treat a variety of conditions like a sore throat, diarrhea, abdominal pain, pneumonia, dysentery and wound healing. The world’s most beautiful women—Egypt’s Cleopatra and China’s Yang Guifei loved okra according to historical records. It was used as an ingredient in a variety of dishes—mainly soups and stews, because of its ability to act as a thickening agent because of its mucilage or slime that comes out of it upon cooking. It is the same ability which makes it prone to being misjudged for its taste. Most of its benefits can be attributed to its “gooey” consistency that many people are not fond of.   

According to nutritionist Sylvia W. Zook, Ph.D. of the University of Illinois, the superior fiber in okra helps stabilize blood sugar level by curbing the rate at which sugar is absorbed from the intestinal tract. It can also contribute greatly to a healthy digestive system and speed up healing of the ulcer. Now let’s discuss okra’s benefits at length.

Okra as Anti-Diabetic - It is high in fiber which makes it an important part of dietary treatment option for a diabetic. Increased dietary fiber intake promotes better control of body sugar and improves insulin sensitivity.

  • Soak two fresh okras overnight.
  • Cut the ends of the okras and slit them in the middle then place them in a glass of water.
  • Make sure that the okra water is placed at room temperature and not in a refrigerator otherwise the slimy mucilage will not mix with water well.
  • Drink the okra water first thing in the morning on an empty stomach for faster absorption.

Intestinal cleanser - Okra’s mucilage facilitates smooth and more comfortable elimination preventing constipation and colorectal cancer. What’s more, as a plant, okra is non-toxic, non-habit forming and has no side effects compared to your over-the-counter laxatives.

Anti-ulcer agent - A study published in Public Library of Science showed that okra compounds inhibit adhesion of Helicobacter pylori (ulcer-causing bacteria) to the human gastric mucosa.

Cholesterol control - Half cup of okra can give you 2 grams of dietary fiber. The fiber in okra also plays an important role in lowering the body’s cholesterol level as it binds with excess fat molecules and eliminates them from your system.

Packed with vitamins and minerals - The vitamin A in okra is essential for eye health and lowers the risk of cataracts. It is also rich in vitamin C which is essential in various bodily processes such as body tissue repair, wound healing, protein and collagen formation and free radical damage prevention. It contains calcium, iron, sodium, potassium, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus and other minerals necessary in important processes in the body such as controlling blood pressure, strengthening the immune system and preventing cell damage.

Promotes healthy pregnancy - Okra contains a healthy dose of folate necessary for pregnant women to prevent miscarriage and decrease the risk of birth defects. Folate can also prevent anemia as it ensures normal red blood cell formation.

These are only some of the many benefits of okra. While it remains underrated when it comes to taste, the benefits definitely outweigh its slimy texture. Aside from that, it is an affordable option to add to your diet staple. Be like Cleopatra and don’t ignore that piece of okra in your pinakbet next time. 

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